What part of the BBC’s charter says the licence fee should be spent producing a magazine?


Walk into any newsagent or supermarket and there they are – tempting you like tasty treats with their tantalising covers, writes Graham Dudman.

Catering for every aspect of human life: politics, showbiz, current affairs, humour, lifestyle, hobbies, sport, history, sex, drugs and rock’n roll… You name it, there’s a magazine devoted to it.

Life for many magazines is tough these days fighting the twin demons of falling readership and ad revenue.

Several titles have given-up their print editions to become online-only ventures (our industry’s Press Gazette is a fine example). Others have gone free (NME and Time Out) in what looks like a last throw of the dice.

Competition from commercial rivals is one thing, but cash-strapped current affairs mags now find themselves competing with a fabulously resourced juggernaut: the BBC.

Click on the Beeb’s news website and it doesn’t take long to come across its own magazine section. BBC News Magazine promises readers: ‘In-depth features on topical issues plus a round-up of UK newspapers, your letters and a daily mini-quiz.’

In depth written pieces on topical issues? Sounds just like the New Statesman or The Spectator. To be frank, some of News Magazine’s headlines don’t exactly scream ‘read me!’ The Man Who Bought Stonehenge – And Then Gave It Away, A Fascination with Gangsters, Are Fans Fanatical or Fanciful? The General’s Plan and Struggling to Survive.

Relying on those to attract an audience in a commercial venture might put you in some difficulty.

Of course that’s not an issue for the BBC. I have no objections to the Beeb being online. It’s part of today’s media landscape and it would be ludicrous for them not to be there.

But surely BBC online content should be about complimenting its TV and radio output. If the corporation is producing an online magazine competing with publications for sale in newsagents or supermarkets, what’s to stop it launching other products available in the same shops?

Strictly Slippers, Panorama Pyjamas, Newsnight Nuts. Clearly a preposterous suggestion. But no more preposterous than the British BROADCASTING Corporation publishing a current affairs magazine.

And finally …

The serialisation last week of Lord Ashcroft’s hatchet job on David Cameron was one of those rare occasions where the Daily Mail’s revelations were top of rival papers’ news lists 24 hours later.

To counter lurid allegations of toff university pranks, an old college contemporary of the PM, Toby Young, went public insisting it was all cobblers.

Last week’s serialisation fallout mirrors events when the Sunday Times first published extracts of Andrew Morton’s blockbuster Diana: Her True Story. At the time, Morton’s revelations were dismissed on the radio by Max Hastings, then editor of the Daily Telegraph, as tittle tattle which his paper ignored for six months on the basis it was fiction.

A few years later, turned out every word was true. Wonder if one day we’ll be saying the same about Pig-gate?

Graham Dudman is a former Managing Editor of The Sun and Editorial Development Director at News UK, working across The Times, Sunday Times and The Sun. He is an editorial consultant at News Associates. Follow Graham on Twitter @1dudders